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Peter Marshall


Biographical information:

Born in 1902 in Coatbridge (North Lanarkshire, Scotland).

Emigrated to US in 1927.

Preacher in Georgia, then the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (the “church of the Presidents,” esp. Lincoln) in Washington D.C.

Served as chaplain for the Senate for two years.

Died suddenly at the age of 46. Survived by wife Catherine (who wrote a biography about him, titled A Man Called Peter), and son Peter (who currently runs a Presbyterian ministry in the US).

** A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.

It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.

Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us easy to live with.

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for we find that to wait is often harder than to work.

** Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; the trouble is that we do not want to do it.

** One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.

Thou hast invited me “to ask, to seek, to knock” -- assuring me that if I ask, it shall be given unto me; if I seek, I shall find; if I knock, it shall be opened unto me. Help me to believe that, O God. Give me the faith to ask, knowing that I shall receive. Give me the faith to seek, believing that I shall surely find. Give me the faith and the persistence to knock, knowing that it shall be indeed opened unto me. Help me to live the Christian life in daring faith and humble trust, that there may be worked out in me, even in me, Thy righteousness and goodness. (“The Promises of God”)

** Give unto us more faith. We have so little… we say. Yet we have faith in each other -- in checks and banks, in trains and airplanes, in cooks, and in strangers who drive us in cabs. Forgive us for our stupidity, that we have faith in people whom we do not know, and are so reluctant to have faith in Thee who knowest us altogether. (“For More Faith”)

I have thought often of myself and my own needs, seldom of my fellow human beings and of their needs. O God, give me selflessness. I have been unwilling to forgive others, yet have had the audacity to ask Thee to forgive me. I ask Thee for an understanding heart. I have criticized other people in order to inflate my own importance. I ask Thee, O God, for a generous heart. I have tried by reason and the twisting of my conscience to rationalize wrong into right. There have been times when I told the truth only because I believed it was expedient to do so. O God, help me to love truth and honesty for their own sakes, that I may do right simply because I know it is right to do right. (“For Sins Against Others”)

** I know, Father, that I must come to Thee just as I am. But I also know that I dare not go away just as I came…. So, Lord, I acknowledge my total dependence upon Thee. Make me over into the person Thou dost want me to be, that I may yet find that destiny for which Thou didst give me birth. For His help, who is plenteous in mercy, I give Thee my gratitude. Amen. (“The New Man”)

I thank Thee, O Lord, that, in Thy mercy, so many things I feared never came to pass. Fill my heart with thankful praise. Help me to repay in service to others the debt of Thy unmerited benefits and mercies. May the memories of sorrows that disciplined my spirit keep me humble and make me grateful that my God is no celestial Santa Claus but a divine Saviour. (“The Grateful Heart”)

I need Thee when the sun shines, lest I forget the storm and the dark. I need Thee when I am popular, when my friends and those who work beside me approve and compliment me. I need The more then, lest my head begin to swell. O God, forgive me for my stupidity, my blindness in success, my lack of trust in Thee. Be Thou now my Saviour in success. Save me from conceit. Save me from pettiness. Save me from myself! And take this success, I pray, and use it for Thy glory. (“For Humility on the Mountaintop of Life”)

Father, some of Thy children find life hard. It is for them we would ask Thy help now. Many of them are burdened with loads that they need not carry. Many of them clutch black burdens of anxiety and worry, when no child of Thine need be anxious. There are many who carry loads of fear when there is nothing to fear; many who make themselves miserable when they might be filled with Thy peace…. So help us to be like children, content to live fully each hour as it comes. Then shall we escape the corroding care, the agonizing worry that destroys our peace of mind, renders us unfit for happiness, and dishonors Thee. Then shall we be filled with joy and that peace which no circumstance can take from us. We ask Thee for Thy ceaseless bounty, for that joy and that peace. (“To Lift the Burden of Worry”)

** Lord, Thou has said that our Father in heaven notes even the fall of a sparrow to the ground. Help us to believe, O God, that Thou art concerned not only with the rolling of the spheres in their orbits, but even with each of us, our doubts, and perplexities. (“Prayer in Perplexity”)

We know that Thou hast not promised to surround us with immunity from all the ills to which flesh is heir. We only pray that when they come, if come they must, they shall find us unafraid and with adequate resources to meet them. Give us a constant faith and a steady courage, that we may neither whimper nor in peevish petulance complain before Thee. (“To Face the Future Without Fear”)

** Help me not to take myself too seriously. Grant to me objectivity and a quiet mind and a sense of humor. (“The Estrangement of a Friend”)

** And so, my Father, wilt Thou give me the gift of love? Then I shall love Thee, and loving Thee, shall love other men -- and compassion shall rise within me, warm and sweet. But I ask not merely to love those easy to love. Help me to love those who are hard to live with. Give me a concern for the needs of others, not on the basis of barter or exchange -- not love given for love received, but love given to the unlovely for Christ’s sake. (“For More Love”)

** Our Father, I think of all the pain and heartache, the tears and sorrow, the greed and cruelty unloosed around the world. Help me to be an instrument of Thine to alleviate the pain, by this day: returning good for evil, returning soft answers for sharp criticisms, being polite when I receive rudeness, being understanding when I am confronted by ignorance and stupidity. So may I, in gentleness and love, check the hasty answer, choke back the unkind retort, and thus short-circuit some of the bitterness and unkindness that has overflowed Thy world. I ask this in the name of Jesus, who alone can give me the grace so to act. Amen. (“To Change the Spiritual Climate of the World”)

** I put my hand in Thine, and walk on into the future, knowing that it will be a good future because Thou art in it. (“In Time of Bereavement”)

** Our Heavenly Father, if it be Thy will that America should assume world leadership, as history demands and the hopes of so many nations desire, make us good enough to undertake it. (Senate, June 5, 1947)

** God of our fathers, whose Almighty hand hath made and preserved our Nation, grant that our people may understand what it is they celebrate tomorrow [Independence Day]. May they remember how bitterly our freedom was won, the down payment that was made for it, the installments that have been made since this Republic was born, and the price that must yet be paid for our liberty. My freedom be seen not as the right to do as we please but as the opportunity to do what is right…. May our faith be something that is not merely stamped upon our coins, but expressed in our lives. Let us, as a nation, not be afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way…. To the extent that America honors Thee, wilt Thou bless America and keep her true as Thou hast kept her free, and make her good as Thou hast made her rich. Amen. (Senate, July 3, 1947)

** Help us to see, O Lord, that “I” is in the middle of sin, and let no man among us think more highly of himself than he ought to think, to the end that we may be used of Thee and Thy service for the good of all mankind. (Senate, Feb. 5, 1948)

** Our Father, as we remember the great men who by their trust in Thee helped to give this nation its glorious heritage, remind us that we honor them best when we follow their good example. Give to the people of America, and to their leaders, the old-fashioned love of country that seeks to give rather than to get…. We ask Thee not for tasks more suited to our strength, but for strength more suited to our tasks. May we so live that the sacrifices that have been made for our liberty shall not have been in vain. (Senate, Feb. 11, 1948)

** Our Father, give us the faith to believe that it is possible for us to live victoriously even in the midst of dangerous opportunity that we call crisis. Help us see that there is something better than patient endurance or keeping a stiff upper lip, and that whistling in the dark is not really bravery. Trusting in Thee, may we have the faith that goes singing in the rain, knowing that all things work together for good to them that love Thee. (Senate, March 22, 1948)

** Our hearts still singing with the beauty and joy of Easter, we pray to Thee, O Christ, to keep us under the spell of immortality. May we never again think and act as if Thou wert dead. Let us more and more come to know Thee as a living Lord who hath promised to them that believe: “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Help us to remember that we are praying to the Conqueror of Death, that we may no longer be afraid nor be dismayed by the world’s problems and threats, since Thou hast overcome the world. In Thy strong name, we ask for Thy living presence and Thy victorious power. Amen. (Senate, March 29, 1948)

** O God, our Father, history and experience have given us so many evidences of Thy guidance to nations and to individuals that we should not doubt Thy power or Thy willingness to direct s. Give us the faith to believe that when God wants us to do or not to do any particular thing, God finds a way of letting us know it. (Senate, April 7, 1948)

** Help us, Our Father, to show other nations an America to imitate -- not the America of loud jazz music, self-seeking indulgence, and love of money, but the America that loves fair play, honest dealing, straight talk, real freedom, and faith in God. (Senate, June 11, 1948)

** Help us, O God, to treat every human heart as if it were breaking, and to consider the feeling of others as we do our own. Help us to be gentle, and to control our tempers that we may learn to love one another. Give us the grace so to live this day, in the name of Jesus, who loves us all. Amen. (Senate, Jan. 17, 1949)

** Deliver us, our Father, from futile hopes and from clinging to lost causes, that we may move into ever-growing calm and ever-widening horizons. Where we cannot convince, let us be willing to persuade, for small deeds done are better than great deeds planned. We know that we cannot do everything. But help us to do something. For Jesus’ sake. Amen. (Final prayer written by Peter Marshall. Dr. Marshall died two days before it was delivered, but the prayer was read before the Senate by Dr. Clarence Cranford on Jan. 27, 1949.)

** Darling, I’ll see you in the morning. (Last words to wife, Catherine)

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